Isthmus of Kra

June 17, 2011

50 Park Street, South Melbourne
South Melbourne. A suburb of terraced houses, new high-rise apartments, confusing divided streets, and the best Thai food I’ve found in Melbourne. Went here with the family in late May for dinner. The Isthmus is a favourite of ours, consistently excellent food and good service. For those of you who are curious, an isthmus is a narrow land bridge that connects two larger land masses, usually surrounded by water. The Isthmus of Kra exists, it connects the Malay Peninsula with mainland Asia.
The only drawback to having regular places where you go to eat is that you tend to develop regular menu choices. We always sit, peruse the menu for a fair while, and then order pretty much exactly what we’ve ordered for the past four years. Ahh well, in our defence, they are all so tasty! We can’t help ourselves.
If you go to the Isthmus of Kra, there are two dishes you absolutely must get. The first (second coming later) is a plate of the Monsoon Oysters. Lightly grilled oysters served in a specially made celadon plate, topped with herbs, and a lime, lemongrass and chili dressing. I normally dislike oysters, but these are warm and silky soft, wonderfully refreshing because of the lemongrass and lime, and the hot chili sauce makes them lip-smackingly good.

Next is another favourite, the Lotus Blue Dumplings. It’s a shame that they’ve come out so pale in the photo, normally they are textbook blue from the butterfly pea flower dye the chef uses to artfully craft these little beauties. They have minced beef in them and are lovely and aromatic. The casing is gelatinous but not stodgy, and they come with a kicking dipping sauce. Wiggle one onto your fork, dollop on some sauce and pop the whole thing in your mouth whole.

Our last entree that we shared was a new dish (shock horror). It was one of a number of brand new dishes on the menu, and it sounded good, and didn’t disappoint. Large, flattened prawns rubbed with a spice salt of pepper, garlic, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, seared and served with an apple and coconut salad. I really loved the crunchy batons of apple as a foil to the spicy prawns.

We chose four main dishes to share. My absolute favourite, and the second dish you absolutely must order here, is the sour plum and lime steamed Barramundi. I love barramundi, and I think we’re very lucky to have such a great fish available to us in Australia. The whole fish (deboned in the photo) comes sitting in a stock of lemongrass, sour plum, pickled garlic, kaffir lime leaves, fresh ginger and coriander. It is tangy and soft and fragrant and juicy and mmmmmm….! Order it, you won’t be disappointed.

Next came another old favourite, the Lamb Gulai, lamb in a tumeric spiced curry. Loved the tumeric flavour here, this is a really great curry, although they also do a great Green Curry.

Next was the other new dish of the night the Wok-singed Venison. A was adamant about getting this and I’m very glad he persisted. Extremely tender slivers of venison (being a very lean meat, it is easy to overcook and make tough), in a Thai basil, chili and lime juice marinade with crunchy green beans and snow peas (YUM), with extra crunch from some cashews. A great dish with really punchy flavours. (Please avoid staring directly at the handle of the spoon in the photo below, it may cause temporary blindness)

To finish, a classic thai dish, chicken pad thai. This is a great version of this dish, not oily, includes tofu as well as chicken, and plenty of tang from the lime. I adore Thai food, it is definitely my favourite Asian cuisine.

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Filed under: South Melbourne, Thai

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